Surround Sound Speaker Systems
- Written by Jim Milton
- Published on 14 September 2009
Revel is the upscale speaker division of Harman International, which includes Infinity, Harmon Kardon, JBL and Lexicon. Revel has been making speakers since 1996 and makes the Ultima2 (~ $26K/pair) and Performa series from which the Concerta gets its lineage. The chief designer of these speakers is Kevin Voecks who also has had a hand in developing speakers for Snell and Mirage. With an audio testing facility built by Harman International in California, all Revel speakers go through a rigorous testing process for voicing and timbral accuracy. The Concerta series allows the rest of us â€œcommon folkâ€ to be able to step up to high performance sound without busting our budget. The following review is on the F12 towers, C12 center, S12 surrounds and two B120 wireless subwoofers.
- F12 Towers
- Design: Three-way
- MFR: 52 Hz - 20 kHz, - 3 dB
- Sensitivity: 90.5dB SPL with 2.83V @ 1m
- Nominal Impedance: 6 Ohms
- Crossover Frequencies: 575 Hz, 3 kHz
- Dimensions: 42.3" H x 9.75" W x 14.3" D height: 42.3" (107.4cm) including feet
- Weight: 62.6 Pounds/each
- MSRP: $1,498/pair USA
- C12 Center Channel
- Design: Three-way
- MFR: 85 Hz - 15 kHzÂ Â± 1.5 dB
- Sensitivity: 90dB SPL with 2.83V @ 1
- Nominal Impedance: 6 Ohms
- Crossover Frequencies: 500 Hz, 2.8 kHz,
- Low Frequency: -3dB @ 70 Hz, -6dB @ 59 Hz.
- Dimensions: 9.1" H x 20.9" W x 10.1" D
- Weight: 32 Pounds
- MSRP: $599 USA
- S12 Surround Speakers
- Design: Two-way
- MFR: 72 Hz - 20 kHzÂ Â± 3 dB
- Sensitivity: 87dB SPL with 2.83V @ 1m Impedance 8 Ohms (nominal)
- Crossover Frequency: 2.5 kHz
- Low Frequency: Â -3dB @ 78 Hz, -6dB @ 70 Hz, and -10 dB @ 60 Hz
- Dimensions: 11.8" H x 13.3" W x 7" D
- Weight: 12.3 Pounds/each
- MSRP: $998/pair USA
- B120 Subwoofer
- Design: Sealed
- Power Amplifier: 250 Watts RMS
- MFR: Down 3 dB at 36 Hz
- Dimensions: 17.75" H x 14.75" W x 14" D
- Weight: 51 Pounds
- MSRP: $999 USA (Optional TX1 transmitter: $120)
- Revel Speakers
My ensemble arrived in two shipments and the delivery man was not amused. All speakers arrived well packaged and in good shape. After unboxing the whole group, I began to wonder how I was going to get them all upstairs into my media room. The towers were big and fairly hefty, but actually only take up less than a square foot of floor space. The F12s have a clean line with a nice cherry veneer.
They can be bi-amped and the binding posts are well spaced out on the back of each speaker. The F12s are a 3-way design with a 1 inch tweeter, 5 3/8 inch midrange and two 8 inch woofers. The C12, which was a lot heavier than I expected, is also a 3-way design with the same dome tweeter as the F12, a 4 inch mid and two 6 Â½ inch woofers. Spikes are included to replace the rubber feet if you want to set them on carpet.
The back of the C12 has an adjustable rod to tilt the speaker down (if mounted above your TV) so the tweeter is at ear level. An optional speaker stand can be purchased for about $200 if you want to place the C12 on the floor in front of your TV or projection screen. Of note, it does not have a boundary compensation switch so if you are planning on placing it inside an entertainment cabinet, be forewarned. The S12s are solidly built with two 1 inch tweeters and two 5 inch midranges.
They sport a switch that lets you toggle from bi/di/mono. Bi: both sides are in phase, Di: both sides are out of phase of each other, and mono: one speaker group is off (thus giving you a very pinpointed sound source). The B120s were sent a wireless signal via a transmitter.
With the optional TX1 wireless transmitter connected to the audio system, the B120 can be placed anywhere in the room (without cables) within reach of an AC outlet.
One or two B120 subwoofers can be operated with a single TX1 transmitter. These 2 subs took up a fair amount of my floor space, but the advantages of having two subs will be discussed later on in this review. The 12 inch woofers were made from OCC (organic ceramic composite) for rigidity and light weight.
All of the Concerta tweeters had the Constant Acoustic Impedance technology applied to them to help with a more even dispersal of high frequency sound and better blending with the mid range drivers.. All speakers have a cast metal faceplate and internal bracing for rigidity and to fight off unwanted cabinet resonance. The boxes are made of MDF and the speakers felt solid and heavy.
I set the F12s about 3.5 feet from the side walls and 9 inches off the front wall. The C12 replaced the spot above the TV that my, now seemingly diminutive, center sat. The C12 weighed about twice as much as my center and I was fearful that the shelf rack would not be able to sustain the added weight. To my great relief, it held! The S12s were positioned 1 foot behind and 2.5 feet above my head from my â€œsweet spotâ€.
The subs were a little trickier to set up. Kevin Voecks gave me a â€œwhite paperâ€ on experiments done with multiple subs and how multiple subs can smooth out nodes and voids in your perception of bass in different seating locations in a room. Some seats will hear â€œboomâ€ and other will simple hear very weak bass. Four subs were considered optimal, but two subs, if properly set up, could sound almost as good! It is all in the placement.
The supplied diagram that came with each sub suggested mid wall placements that face each other. This particular location allows for each sub to cover the room and distribute the bass more evenly and consistently through the entire listening area. After all, why should the guy in the middle seat get all the fun? Following a fair amount of tweaking (mostly turning down the volume on each sub), I reached a point where the bass was very deep and solid, but not overly boomy. Remember, the purpose of multi subs is not increase the shear volume of bass, but to smooth it out over a larger listening area. No matter where I sat in my room, the bass sounded equally smooth and extended which is what multiple subs should provide in a room.
I really liked the wireless transmitter and the fact that I did not have to run more cables over the floor. Simply plug your cable from the â€œsub outâ€ to the transmitter, select which channel you want the subs to be on (a choice of 4) and youâ€™re all set. I had no transmitter issues during the course of this review. If you prefer the traditional method of hooking up your sub with cables, you still can. On the rear you'll find an easy-to-use control layout, including the EQ settings.
An on/off switch accompanies a fixed power cord and auto-signal detection/stand-bye. A separate volume control, line-level connections, and an on/off low pass filter that includes phase control and frequency response finish up the 250 watt amp panel. All in all, these subs allow for a lot of tweaking. I used an Emotiva LPA-1 amplifier with an Emotiva LMC-1 pre/pro during my review. The Concerta speakers are fairly efficient and I had no trouble driving the system with my125 watt/channel power plant.
Let me tell you up front that Revel has a first-rate reputation for building speakers that are sonically accurate. The treble is sweet and not harsh as long as your source is well recorded. The mid range drivers blend beautifully with the tweeters and are about as accurate a mid range as I have heard on any speaker. You wonâ€™t mistake these for the Ultimas, but the heritage is undeniable. Revel puts a lot of time and effort into their speaker designs and does a lot of research and testing before they put their name on a speaker. It shows.
The F12s are very neutral and can play as delicately or as dynamically as you can tolerate. When really pushed, the sound never became compressed or strident. No matter how hard I pushed, they just seemed to ask for more, well beyond my sonic tolerance. I did not notice any burping or huffing from the port in the rear of the towers. I might also point out that the F12s can play pretty low on their own accord.
If you are in the market for a full range 2 channel speaker (like a purist type that refuses to use a sub while listening to stereo), these speakers will fit the bill nicely. With their black grilles on, they look almost monolithic and plain. They may not be the most visually aesthetic speakers on the market, but their real beauty is in the sonics, which is where I prefer to spend my money. The C12 reproduced vocals, both male and female, with remarkable accuracy. Due to the cabinet size and driver compliment of the C12, I was tempted to drop the crossover down to 60Hz, but that made male voices sound too chesty and thick for my taste. I left them at 80Hz and they sounded much more natural and open. Even my wife commented on how clear the dialog sounded with the C12. And as good as these sounded, I was even more surprised with the sound quality and dynamic range of the S12s.
The seamless envelopment of sound, whether music or movies, was impressive. Much better than what I was used to hearing (my old Cambridge Soundworks surrounds are almost 15 years old after all). I preferred dipole mode, but tried the other modes for fun. One caveat I have is the fact that the toggle switch can only be accessed if you remove the grilles from the speakers. Perhaps if the toggle was on top or on the bottom, it would make selecting a mode easier. Probably not a big issue since youâ€™ll eventually select a mode you like and leave them alone from then on. For music, I played a lot of various SACDs and CDs. The Cincinnati Pops not only sounded natural, but you could feel the spaciousness of the hall. Tympani and brass sounded smooth and natural without glare our muddiness. Fanfare for the Common Man, by Copland(Telarc), was broad and produced very deep bass, even without the subs, and simmer of cymbals without a problem. Dire Straights: On Every Street sounded wonderfully as well. Deep bass chords rolled out of the F12s and Mark Knoppflerâ€™s voice, a good test for mid range accuracy, was smooth (in a gravelly way, if you know his voice) and present in the room. Iron Fist has some acoustic guitar work combined with some sub sonic bass foundations that the F12s played with aplomb. The bass had punch and impact. Tight is a good descriptor.
For movies, Serenity has a lot of dialog and some nice action scenes to break up that dialog. The Concertas were having as much fun as I was watching the movie. Perhaps it is the 3-way design of the C12, but dialog was very clear from any of my 3 seating positions in my room. The surrounds provided a nice diffuse rear sound field and I seriously do not think I ever came close to making the B120s do more than shrug during the entire movie.
The Concerta 5.1 speaker system has a lot going for it. The price is reasonable for the quality of build and stellar sonics. These speakers sounded great together, whether playing music (multi channel or stereo) or movies. The dynamic range and clarity were excellent. However, there are a few things that I think could be improved upon. I have already mentioned the toggle switch location on the S12s. That doesnâ€™t really affect the sound, though. The F12s have great dynamic range and are wonderfully neutral, but the sound stage seemed more confined to between the two speakers. No amount of toe-in or out really helped extend the sound field further out to the sides. Perhaps Iâ€™m spoiled by my recent dalliance with KEF speakers and their holographic abilities that I am being a bit picky. This is not to say that the F12s do not perform well, it is just that the sound stage was a bit more â€œfocusedâ€ then I am used to hearing. A deep and solid soundstage, but not overly broad. The overall neutral sonic signature and detailed mid range really make up for any of these minor issues. Revel has created a speaker system that has many of the wonderful qualities that their flagship speakers are known for, but at a price that most of the rest of us can afford. I plan on keeping the F12s, C12 and S12s.That is, perhaps, the highest approval I can give!